VILNIUS — President Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg entered a meeting room on the sidelines of the summit, where the press pool had already assembled and was waiting. The room was adorned with two American flags and two NATO flags arranged in a row against the wall.
Both leaders made brief remarks while standing in front of the flags, but did not take any questions from reporters about Ukraine and Turkey.
Stoltenberg expressed his warm welcome to President Biden at the NATO summit and extended gratitude for his “strong leadership.” He highlighted the significance of the summit, stating, “This summit is already historic because the agreement we made yesterday will make Sweden a full member of NATO.”
Stoltenberg also emphasized that they would convey a “strong message to Ukraine” to demonstrate their unwavering support. Furthermore, he underlined the importance of increased investment in defense as a key focus of the summit.
In response, President Biden commended Stoltenberg’s leadership and stressed its significance at this critical moment.
He stated, “I think it’s really important at this critical moment, that you continue to lead NATO. You’re trusted. Your leadership really matters.”
Biden also expressed agreement with the proposed language concerning Ukraine’s future in NATO. “We agree on the language that that you propose, relative to the future of Ukraine,” stated President Biden during the joint appearance with Stoltenberg in Vilnius.
“I still think that President Putin thinks the way he succeeds is to break NATO and we’re not going to do that,” added Biden.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed strong disappointment and described it as “absurd” if Ukraine is not offered NATO membership at the ongoing alliance’s summit. Zelenskyy emphasized that Ukraine deserves respect and suggested a lack of readiness to extend an invitation or grant membership to Ukraine.
In a tweet, Zelenskyy stated, “It’s unprecedented and absurd when the time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine’s membership. While at the same time vague wording about ‘conditions’ is added even for inviting Ukraine.” He further added, “It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member of the Alliance. This means that a window of opportunity is being left to bargain Ukraine’s membership in NATO in negotiations with Russia. And for Russia, this means motivation to continue its terror.”